September 28, 2011
Classic show/wonderful and interesting recording!
Oh my god! LIsten to this particular version of this great show. The intrepid taper, despite his bonehead friends, (sorry, bonehead friends, if you are reading this. I hope you are not offended and I'd have to bet you'd agree, after some reflection throughout these years, that all of your advice for the taper throughout the show, ("hit pause until Jerry comes back on"), was comically bad advice. When you listen to this show, you will find yourself arguing with the friends as if you were there. And that's the great thing about this recording: it has presence. (Again to the taper's friends: I salute you for whatever role you played in smuggling the gear in to this allegedly more heavily policed show environment than usual, (due to the Dead's goal of recording an album).
This is one of the all-time great shows and an uncharacteristically incredible recording for a tour blessed with many partial, (mostly acoustic sets) soundboards and at least one serious lull, (in the middle of the Warfield run) of harsh but listenable Nak recordings. (Again, no offense to the intrepid tapers of those shows.)
What a difference 3000 miles makes! If you listen to the Warfield run in order, you get lulled into this feeling that you're at the neighborhood bar listening to your favorite local originals/covers band. (My favorite, next to 1980 Grateful Dead is the Ray Mason Band of Northampton Massachusetts.) But then through the prism of New Orleans (at least listen to the Truckin' from that run), they arrive in New York where everyone knows what songs they played in California and was going to sing/shout along with all of them!
Woooooo!!! Jerrreee!!!! You're all in the middle of it with this recording. For a while, the taper keeps the mics low. (Again, I think the friends are mostly responsible for this. In their defense, they must have been the lookouts and by the sounds of it, tapers were getting busted.) The friends recognize China Cat Sunflower, (in the "first" set no less) as being of particular importance, so they urge him to raise the mics slightly. He does and suddenly you are awash in the speaker stacks bouncing Grateful Dead at their prime off the balconies of RCMH. Carter is still president; John Lennon is still alive and suggests he may tour.
Taper stays ballsy for the final set and keeps the mics up. Second set is much heavier in terms of "big" songs than most of these three set shows, (especially if you count China/Rider, which of course, is from the first electric set, which was actually a more common placement for this-at the time-somewhat rare song-in 1980. Two more big combos follow, (the St. of Circumstance has a late 80's confidence to it several years early. Not tentative at all. Inventive, confident Grateful Dead that, by the post-drums, is rocking hard. Mr. Dwork in Taper's Compendium complains that NFA is too slow. There are far slower ones from 78-79. Bobby is all over that and GDTRFB. Absolutely perfect U.S. Blues.
This show provides a great juxtaposition with the previous one, the valedictory show at the Warfield. The former is a steady, introspective consideration of the Grateful Dead's poetry and artistic life and a "thank you" to a loyal, local following. The next show is a rousing welcome to the future of the Grateful Dead. The next spring would see the beginning of a campaign to turn on the east coast, particularly the north east with an almost seasonal opportunity to dose and go see the Dead within a 100 mile radius of your house. The popularity of the GD in the 1980's would largely be based on the ability of the shows and performances-both by the performers themselves and by their audience-to go completely over the top. This show, more than the final show at the Warfield, exemplifies the way forward.
A note about the quality: yes, you can hear the friends talk occasionally, but when they do, it's actually pretty cool. Otherwise, crowd does not get in the way and the sound quality is quite good throughout with improvement during China Cat due to the mics being raised slightly. It's not like the mics are in his shirt though. Sound is clear throughout and, more significantly, there's a great "room" presence to the recording.